A Thank You Note to the Photog Gurus in My Life

This might get wordy...so strap in or skip ahead.

If you've seen my Facebook posts for more than 2 days in a row, you've probably figured out that my dream is to do photography full time, for a living...and to become a world class photog (with a Nat Geo cover shoot before I die).

Not sure how this next line is going to go over, but I'll say it anyway.

It's easy to get in to the photography game. The cost of entry has come way down. I have gear with capabilities/functions that 10 or even 5 years ago I would never have been able to even look at, let alone own. It seems that anyone with a DSLR can call themselves a 'photographer' (hell, that's pretty much what I did). And there are websites devoted to showing the follies of doing just that.

MASTERING the ART of photography, however, is something else entirely.

But I got lucky...in two ways, actually. The first is that I think I have an eye for the shot and knack of getting 'that' moment (time will bear out if this is actually true or not, so that's all the time we'll spend on that).

The second way is that I have been blessed...yes blessed with AMAZING friends who also happen to be photographers. I have some friends that are AMAZINGLY talented in the way that they write with light. There will be a day when my grandkids come up and say 'Granpop, is it true that you really knew such and such?' And I'll say "not only is it true, but they actually taught me about the art of taking pictures'. And their little jaws will drop as they run outside to play with their jetpacks.

With so many photographers coming on the scene, you would think competition would be fierce. And...it may be. But I'd never know it. And here's why.

These amazingly talented photographer friends that I'm talking about (who, yes, actually make money taking photos) are not my competition (and I'm not theirs). Instead of letting me flounder around as I re-discovered my love of photography, they took me under their wing. Taught me things. Gave me tips. Helped me grow in skill and confidence.

I can't tell you what a difference that has made this year alone. I feel like I'm not even the same guy behind a camera that I was even a year ago.

Dude...do you realize how huge that is? I read all the time of 'pro's in the field looking down with disdain at the newbies. And that baffles me. Maybe it's like that some places, but I have never really felt that. And any time I'm at a shoot where there are multiple photographers (public event or something of the like) or if my friends get a new camera and have questions...I do what I can to help them fall deeper in love with photography.

Because that's what happened to me. A handful of friends (at first), encouraged me...guided me...showed me through THEIR love of the craft just how much more I could do with photography and in turn stoked the flames of my love for photography.

It truly leaves me speechless. And I know that I can't repay them (hell, they may not even know how much they've touched me). All I can do is help light that fire and spread that love with someone who comes along and looks up to ME for that guidance (and when that happens, it kinda blows my mind, to be honest).

That's really what it's all about, isn't it? Doing something that makes your heart sing.

The culmination of this hit me full in the heart on December 10. I helped with the Help-Portrait event. And I was blown away. The gifts that were given were amazing. The sheer effort that went in to coordinating the Columbus event alone was mind blowing.

But that wasn't all. The level and caliber of the photographers there blew me away. These are guys that had their shit dialed in. Super talented and skilled. And I again felt like the total newb.

But it didn't matter. I learned so much from everyone that I worked with (or near) that I feel like I took a course on portrait photography.

It blew me away. And there was no disdain, condescension...none of that. Everyone was there for one goal. And to reach that goal everyone helped everyone else. It was awesome.

And for that, I am grateful.

I learned so much from so many people this year that I know to thank them all would be futile and I'm sure I'd miss someone.

But know this...if you are a photog...and we've shared that bond...there's a very good chance that I've learned from and been inspired by you at some point in my quest to make my dream real.

And for that I am eternally grateful as you have brought me one step closer in bringing the dream to life.

I hope that I can continue to learn from and be inspired by you in years to come. And I hope in some way I can pass on the gift and love you've shown me to others who may be in the same boat I was in.

Thank you.

Now let's go capture some amazing moments in 2012!!


Sugar High

When I watch movies like Empire Records, I'm reminded that no one truly has their shit together. And that's a good thing to be reminded of because it makes me less inclined to want things in my life that don't really belong in my life.

I've already exceeded the "Nearly 3AM attention span FB post word length limit" so maybe this sentiment is better suited for a blog post.

Which brings us to now.

So in the flick there are young adults and the hip record store owner Joe.

And pretty much everyone's introduced with their little 'issues'...(some are just exposed later in the flick).

But everything works out. In perfect Hollywood Fashion.

All conflict is resolved...the record store is saved...the man is damned and credits roll.

There are a couple of moments in the film I truly love. Any dialog with Lucas. He reminds me of how I think people used to look at me when I would get philosophical (whew...good thing I don't do THAT anymore).

The other scene I love is where Gina sings lead in the Coyote Shivers song. I love THAT scene for a couple of reasons...1:It's a great version of the song (should have been recorded and put on the soundtrack that way)...2:You can actually see the terror in her eyes of performing in front of people....and then you see that give way to her actually realizing that a dream is coming true.

And that's a beautiful fucking thing.

I know firsthand what that feels like. As I look around and see the photography gear around me. And I see dupes of the prints that I delivered for a client. And I see the number of 'LIKES' on the TwistedZen Photography Facebook Page. And I see the words that people have left (of encouragement and thanks). It's pretty fucking clear to me that a dream is coming true.

And that my friends is a beautiful fucking thing.

The other thing that is awesome about that movie (which was the original FB status update and the start of this piece) is that you think that certain people have their shit together. You are led to believe that the people are envious of the traits of their co-workers. And then you find out just how un-together everyone actually is.

And that's usually my wake-up call.

See...I have a tendency sometimes to look at someone and be like 'wow....you have an amazing (fill in the blank....'life'....'bank account'...'career you love'..) wish I had something like that.'

And that, my friends, is the deathtrap.

We are not meant to compare our lives with others. Nor should anyone look to us for comparison. Inspiration, sure. Comparison? Never. No one will judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. And because of that, if you get in to the comparison game, you'll know the right buttons to push to really wind up doing some damage to that person you're judging (which, if you haven't been following closely, is you).

A fellow photog friend of mine posted that he's got some open time tomorrow and wants to do a shoot. And he got replies from peeps wanting to model from him. And I'm like 'damn...wish I could do that'...and I caught myself. See...thing is, I CAN do that. But I'm not really ready to do that yet. One day I will be. So to compare myself and my situation to him and his, is just stupid. We're two different people.

And you know what else continues to blow my mind on a daily basis?? Since you're still reading, I'll tell you. It's when people come up to me (or email or message me) and tell me that they enjoy following my posts and my progress on making the dream come true. That it inspires them. That it has motivated them to seek out their passion.

Do you have any idea how flippin' cool that is to me? Pretty flippin' cool, let me tell ya.

I had an whole other direction to go with this post, but it's after 3AM and I'm tired. I already fell asleep whilst typing this (and finished it in my head), waking up to find that I was 10 paragraphs back. Bummer.

Anyway...I'm out.

Remember...dreams don't come true. You have to go MAKE them happen. And you are not better or worse than someone else--so don't compare yourself to them. It's never a worthwhile endeavor.

Dream Big or go the fuck home.

And remember, you never know who is watching you...so always be prepared to help a fellow dreamer along like someone ahead of you on the path reached back to help you move along.

Damn the man. Save the Empire.


Facebook Junkie?

I think I'm somewhat of a Facebook Junkie. I suspect as my eating habits and exercising habits change, I'll wind up changing and/or conquering my sedentary addictions (at least that's the intent), but in the cold grip of a Central Ohio Winter, there seems to be nothing wrong with hanging out in front of the PC...playing Words with Friends, scrolling up and down the Facebook wall and pretending to 'catch up' on my 'friends' lives.

There are of course quotes around the words that are stark rationalizations.

I'm not catching up. I'm being a welcome voyeur. People post what they want people to see. And if by chance something gets posted to the public wall that was only meant for private eyes, these same people pray that they removed the post before too many of their invited voyeurs saw it.

And I do the same thing. Unlike the hyper-instant nature of Twitter...Facebook is feigned spontaneity. A good portion of my posts that seem like 'quirky' and 'off the cuff' are rehearsed in my mind before ever hitting 'The Wall.' Sorry. I'm not this funny in real life. Honestly. And when I do meet 'friends' on facebook. The first time in real life is often awkward. There's no space behind the screen to hide behind.

So...while I would like to think of many of my 'friends I met on Facebook' as also 'friends in real life,' the truth is, that's not a given. It's possible in real life you're an asshole and I'm a dick. But we both post some funny shit...comment here and there and oft times hit the 'LIKE' button (which really, for me, has turned in to the 'HEY, I READ THIS. GOOD TO SEE YOU'RE STILL ALIVE' button).

So, on a whim (no not really), I decided that while on vacation from work (which, lets be honest, is where many of us actually play on Facebook), I would take a break from FB. Keep my PC turned off unless I needed it (I don't--all my photo editing projects are done now) and I'd stay off Facebook for a week...just to see how things went.

And I got through nearly 24 hours away from FB. And as soon as I posted, I got called out by a couple of (in real life, too) friends. Which...was to be expected.

Because I wasn't really taking a hiatus. What I was doing was saying 'hey...I'm gonna take a break from posting every 40 minutes and just lurk...read what you guys all write without having to post, or think, or comment, or do anything but consume.

And FB really doesn't work like that. I mean...for some people it does. Some people can observe. I'm not one of them. Mostly because I can't keep my big mouth (fingers) shut...I have to respond. I have to see how many people LIKE what I say (which when YOU click the LIKE button, in my mind you've clicked the 'Todd, you're a fucking genius' button).

It's the way I'm wired.

And I saw a post from another friend who reached the conclusion that I had reached about a year ago--I'm really done with Facebook as an 'entity'...I mean, I want to try to cultivate the relations with friends in a REAL way...so I said about a year ago that I was fecking off for parts unknown. And many people popped up and were like...'dude...don't go..' I saw the same reaction on John's wall. And that's when I realized that sometimes the sum of the parts are bigger than the whole. John posts bible verses and inspirational stuff. He has no idea how many people that actually touches....when he posts, it's for him. So...he might be done with FB, but it's not a given that FB is done with him. I know how that feels.

Sure...I write some funny shit on FB...but you won't get to know me by any of that. You wanna get to really know me? Go back and read my blogs. Look at the things I take photos of. THATS how you'll get to know me. Or better yet, meet me at Brew'Stirs on a Friday or Saturday.

If you want a quick chuckle...a video that occasionally makes you laugh, or think, then by all means stick with the status updates. That's what they'll be used for mostly.

And really...that's all it can be. You see, I figured it out.

Facebook IS just like high school again. It's that quick hit of someone as you pass them in the hall. Occasionally you see the cut-out photos from Teen Beat taped in their lockers, but what you know of them is just what you see for the 3 minutes between classes. Purely circumstantial.

And that's probably what's bugging me. You may not know this, but there was a lot about High School that I fucking hated. HATED. But that's a story for another time.

Point is...the me that's on FB...that isn't the real me. That's the 'I'm here to make you laugh because I believe laughter can change the world' me.

I haven't figured out how to reconcile that split yet.

But I'm tryin' real hard, Ringo.



In a completely surreal moment in my life, I just shot and edited my daughter's Sr. Pictures. It seems only yesterday I carried her from the delivery room to the NICU.

She was born premature. And the first 48 hours were the hardest of my life. I suspect the 48 hours before she leaves the house to live her amazing life will be the second hardest. I don't wish for that day to come. I just want to reflect.

My daughter is creative...a free spirit...a free thinker...and sometimes she gets wrapped so deep on a thought that it takes awhile to come back up for air. I know this because she is, in a lot of ways, like me.

I don't know what the future holds for her. I know that she has a lot better chance of not f**king things up than I did. (I really kinda screwed the pooch from about 19-21).

Then...at 21, I decided I didn't want to be in my parents house any more (rookie mistake)...and had to live my own life. I met a woman...fell in love. Had an amazing baby girl.

And life, as I knew it, was never the same.

It sounds cliche. And I don't care. It is the God's Honest Truth. The first seconds I held her in my arms, I knew that there was something in this universe greater than me....greater than you...greater than all of us. And that was love. Holding this little tiny child in my arms, I knew a love so deep it hurt.

And I feel that love every day. Sometimes I watch her...and I know she doesn't really have a sense of how amazing she really is. She'll tell me about her day and I just have to smile. I can't help it. I look at her and think 'You came from me...but you are meant to be so much more than I will ever be.'

I hope that she reads this. Bookmarks it. Realizes that She truly is only limited by herself. Keep looking toward the stars. The universe will keep no secrets from you as long as you continue to ask.

I love you punkin'doodle.


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